Stay Organized While Working From Home
Several decades ago, the idea of working from a place other than a designated office building was totally unheard of. The drill was quite set: wake up in the morning, get ready for work, drive or make that commute to your workplace, and work at the office from 9 to 5 (or whatever the designated office hours are). Once time is up, you pack your things and step out of the office. Another busy day at work done.
Today, things are done quite differently. Now people can do all their work in the comfort of their own homes.
The concept of working from home took a while to be widely accepted. However, thanks to the conveniences offered by the internet, and the leaps and bounds taken by technology, particularly on the communication front, everything became possible. Yes, even working from home.
In this article, you will learn 1) the pros and cons of working from home, as well as 2) how to stay organized while working from home.
PROS AND CONS OF WORKING FROM HOME
There are certain perks to being able to do your work from home. For one thing, you will be in surroundings that are most familiar and comfortable to you. You will also be spared of having your boss breathing down your neck every minute.
But working from home is not without its disadvantages, too. Let us take a look at the pros and cons of working from home.
- Pro #1: You will be working in a comfortable environment. After all, it is your home. This is your domain, so you can move whichever way you want. You know where everything is, and you can rearrange your workplace in a way that suits you. There are also less distractions, such as colleagues chatting during work hours and other similar interruptions.
- Pro #2: You are your own boss. As mentioned earlier, you will not have to look over your shoulder every now and then to see if your boss is checking up on you while you are working.
- Pro #3: You can save on the costs usually associated with going to and from work, such as the cost of commuting, gas/fuel and car maintenance (if you are driving your own vehicle), and formal office clothes and shoes.
- Pro #4: You will be closer to your home and your family. This is an advantage that is valued greatly by work-at-home parents. They get to spend more time with their kids and they will be readily available when they are needed.
Now it’s time to look at the other end of the spectrum.
- Con #1: It is very easy to feel unmotivated if you do not have someone physically nearby to push you to do your work. The idea of your boss being all the way across town, not there to nag you, is enough to make you procrastinate and put off your work for later.
- Con #2: It takes the “social” out of the equation. The best form of social interaction would still be dealing with colleagues and clients face to face. When you work from home, you will be mostly communicating with them over the phone or the internet. For some, especially those who are used to personal interactions, working from home can be quite lonely.
- Con #3: It is difficult to completely separate “work” from “home”. There are higher chances of your attention being drawn away from your work to take care of minor issues at home, such as doing the dishes, finishing the laundry, walking the dogs, and other chores.
- Con #4: Working from home requires a great deal of self-discipline, and this is probably the most difficult of all. There is no one to check on your periodically to do your work. You have deadlines, but no one is breathing down your neck to actually make it. The responsibility falls entirely on your shoulders and, for some, this could take quite a toll on their stress levels, their work productivity, and their health, as a whole.
HOW TO STAY ORGANIZED WHILE WORKING FROM HOME
Create a schedule and stick to it
When you work in a fixed office environment, there is a work schedule already in place, depending on the policies of the company you are working for. There is a timetable that everyone is expected to adhere to. Working from home puts a different spin on this.
Many are under the perception that working from home allows them to choose their own hours, and this is true. It is up to the person to decide when he or she should work. However, this should not mean that they should work anytime they please.
Keep a regular schedule.
This is applicable when your boss or company does not impose specific working hours, leaving you to create your own.
Maintaining regular work hours, even when you are working from home, is the first step to keep things organized. Think of it as working in an office, only the office happens to be in your home. Choose the hours you want to work, and make it a regular thing. For example, if you decide to work from 10 am until 4 pm, with an hour-long break for lunch, there is nothing wrong with that, but you should maintain the 10-to-4 schedule from Monday to Friday.
Here is an example of bad scheduling. On Monday, you work from 10am and wrap things up at 4pm. The next day, Tuesday, you woke up early and decided to immediately get to work at 8am, then finished up at 5pm. On Wednesday, you figured you put in a lot of hours the previous day, so you just worked from 1pm until 5pm. Thursday was quite busy, as you started working at 9am, took a two-hour break in the afternoon, resumed at 3pm and worked all the way until 7pm. On Friday, you just decided to take the day off because you were exhausted from working late the previous day. Saturday, sudden work cropped up and you had to work from 10am until 5pm. You just grabbed a sandwich from the fridge and ate it while in front of your computer. You simply had no time to sit down for a proper lunch.
That was exhausting, wasn’t it?
If you decided to stick to regular work hours, allotting a specific number of hours in a day, you won’t have to subject yourself to a grueling working schedule. You can also keep track of your work progress easier this way.
One thing that most work-at-home moms do to stay organized is to schedule their work hours when the kids are in school or out of the house. This way, there are no distractions of seeing to their child’s needs while working on something.
More importantly, integrate breaks into your schedule. All work and no play will make you dull. And ill. When you are working during the day, remember not to skip your meals. Snack breaks are also allowed. In fact, they are recommended. After all, you need to fuel up when you are working.
But do not make the mistake of taking breaks too long. Keep your snack breaks short, maybe for 10 to 15 minutes only. You may decide to keep your lunch breaks up to an hour only. Make sure the length of your breaks is reasonable. This is also to avoid destroying the momentum you have established with your work’s pace.
Separate work from family or home life
Is this even possible? You are working from home, so naturally you cannot completely ignore home issues from catching your attention.
Yes, it is possible. You just need to set ground rules with regards to your work and your family and home life. It is important to make a clear separation of the two. Otherwise, you will not be able to get any work done.
One major aspect of organization is compartmentalization. Work is work. Home stuff is home stuff.
- Make your family aware that you are working from home. This is not a problem if you live alone, but if you are under the same roof with your family, or have housemates or roommates, it is important that they know about you working from home, and understand it. Sit them down and explain to them about what you do, and what you expect from them. Ask them nicely for their cooperation so you can go about your work without disturbance. In return, you have to come up with an arrangement that will suit all parties involved, so you will also not get in their way while you are working.
- Do not mix housework with office work. This is another reason why it is important to have a schedule in place. Set a time for working, and a time for doing household chores. You do not want to be writing up a major paper while watching the laundry, do you? When you do office work, your 100% attention should be focused on it, not on anything else.
This is probably one of the oldest tricks in the book. At the start of the work day, make a list of the things you plan to accomplish. When work hours are over, check to see if you manage to finish all of them, and take note of those that are left unfinished, which you can continue working on the next day.
Sadly, many people do not really give much importance to making lists. However, if you want to keep things organized, this is one of the most tried and tested methods to do exactly that.
Have a dedicated workspace
In an office environment, you’d probably have your own cubicle or workstation. That is your domain within the office.
When working from home, you should also have a designated space to work. Remember when they said that your bedroom should only be for sleeping and not for eating meals? The same concept applies in this case.
Pick a space in your home where you can comfortably work in.
Some of the considerations you should take into account include the lighting, the ventilation, and the available space for you to move around in. It should be an area that is removed from the parts of the home where family members and even pets often hang out in. It is a bad idea to set up your workspace in front of the television, or even the kitchen. Halfway through your work, you might end up watching a show or rooting inside the refrigerator for something to eat, even if it’s still not time for a snack break.
If you have an extra bedroom in your home, convert it into your office. Or if you have a wide living room, think about rearranging the furniture so you have one corner all to yourself and turn it into a dedicated workspace.
Keep equipment designated solely for work.
If you are primarily using a computer for work, make sure that it is dedicated to work. It should not be the same computer that your kids do their homework in, or that your roommates play games in.
If you are working for a company, ask for the equipment that you need early. This is to avoid idle time.
Maintain a clean and organized work space.
Most importantly, keep it clean and organized. Treat it as you would your cubicle in an actual office setting. When working hours are over, clean up. Throw the papers you no longer need, and file the other documents neatly. This will save you a lot of time and effort from trying to locate them when you resume work the next day.
Break monotony by working in a different location once in a while
I know that we said you should have a space dedicated solely for work, and that is where you should do your work in. However, there is a need to break monotony from time to time. There is nothing wrong with switching things up a little, just to prevent boredom from setting in.
If the weather is nice outside, you can take your work outside. Set up a table at the porch, or even in the yard. If it is a relatively easy day at work, you can probably even do some of your tasks beside the pool.
You have to keep in contact with your colleagues, bosses, and other people related to your work. See to it that you are easily accessible to them, and this includes ensuring that you have phone lines and other modes of communication available.
Even when others communicate mostly via e-mail, Skype, or other internet tools, you should still have your phone at the ready in case of emergencies. Which is brings us to the next point: maintain a separate phone number for work-related calls. This is to avoid confusion; you do not want to receive personal calls on your work line, do you? Otherwise, you might miss an important call from a client while you are in the middle of talking to your cousin over the phone.
It is also possible that there are meetings where you have to come face to face with your colleagues or clients. Show up in these meetings. If you have something urgent or important that you need to talk over with your boss, set an appointment to meet him personally. Just because you work from home does not mean you should shun human contact entirely with those you work with.
Look for trainings and other learning opportunities
Do not confine yourself within the four corners of your home. You should still be on the lookout for ways to grow as an individual and as a professional. Look for trainings, seminars, workshops and other learning opportunities that will help you in your work. Even personality development seminars will help you mature greatly as a professional, whether you are working from home or in a traditional office setup.
Dress for work
Now this is something that often overlooked. Some are of the mind that, since they are working from home, it should be all right to get to work while still in your PJs, right? Not entirely.
It is all about mindset. When you are dressed for work – even when you are at home – your mind will already be operating on work mode. You will feel more motivated to get your work done. Who says you cannot be professional even when your office is your own home?
This does not mean, however, that you should break out the suit and the tie, or wear stilettos. At least, go for a semi-formal vibe. The key here is to not look sloppy, so you won’t also feel sloppy.
Look for tools and use them
You’ll be surprised at the amount of tools that are available to make things easier for anyone who is working at home to stay organized. There are apps for pretty much anything, and you can take advantage of them.
For example, most people use ToDo Cloud and Pivotal Tracker to keep themselves updated on their progress. A lot of calendar apps are also available for those who want to map out their days, be it for work or for family.
This is probably the most important thing you should remember. Even the best-laid plans can go awry because of unforeseen circumstance. Perhaps an accident has occurred that needs your immediate attention, and you have to put your work on hold, effectively disregarding any work schedule you have mapped out. You have to be able to deal with them and not let them cause too much of an upheaval on your work and home life.